learning to fly

Almost a year ago, I was out for a run when I had one of those experiences I will remember forever.

I ran with a bald eagle.

And, since that day, it hasn’t happened again. Not that I would expect it to, because bald eagles in this area don’t stay year-round.

Last week while driving past my usual running spot, I thought I might have seen the eagle again. Today, I saw it for sure.

So this time, I took pictures. (Excuse the photo quality, I don’t run with a DSLR…)

Eagles hold a really special place in my heart. My best friend, Brian, lost his battle with leukemia when I was in college. Brian was a runner. Brian was also the smartest person I have ever met. We were also a lot alike, more than I realized at the time. He loved Star Wars, he loved science fiction. He loved Pink Floyd. He longed to fly. During his cancer treatments, Brian said to me once, that if he beat cancer, he was going to change majors from mechanical engineering to aerospace engineering. “Why not?” he said. “I might as well do what I love.”

One of the songs that he used as the signature on his emails to me our freshman year of college was from the Pink Floyd song, “Learning to Fly” – “A dream unfrightened by the morning light, could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.”

I’ve always imagined that his soul is now soaring like an eagle, free of gravity and free of pain. In fact, that’s exactly what is on his headstone: an eagle. The first time I visited his grave after the funeral, a robin kept hanging around, hopping much closer to me than birds usually come. I had a feeling that somehow, that bird was linked to him. Often I find myself looking at a particularly precocious robin and actually talking to it (I am the first to admit it seems a bit crazy, but heck, we’ve all got our quirks).

So when the eagle soars 10 feet over my head, lands in a tree branch overhanging the path, and looks down at me, I can’t help but think somehow, this means more. Somehow, somewhere, my friend is okay. And he’s checking up on me. And that makes me feel really good.

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4 responses to “learning to fly

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